Monday, April 29, 2013

Civilian Life (and the US!) Here I Come!

That's right, I get officially released from the IDF in two days, Wednesday, May 1st.

The past few months have gone by very quickly, here is a very brief recap: almost two months in course Nativ, one month back at base, two weeks off for Passover (as a nanny with my sister for the Kohl family vacation in Israel...AMAZING!), three more weeks at the first seminar for the conversion process, and almost two weeks on vacation before my release date. 
Here I am with Allie at a ceremony last week where I received a distinguished soldier of the Strategic Division award. My friend Eli and Lavi's mom came to support me as well!

I have time off until my flight to the states on May 22nd and have started "getting my life back in order" as I like to call it. Visiting all the governmental offices I need to visit in order to integrate back into civilian life, catching up and seeing friends, and doing some major spring cleaning of my apartment before I pack up and head back to New England for the whole summer. 

I have many plans already for the summer including Dani's prom and graduation right when I get back, three weddings (bachelorette and shower included), family vaca in Martha's Vineyard, trips to NY and possibly DC, oh, and working full time. I will be nannying (yes, yes, there is a theme) full time this summer fro two adorable kids with 3-day weekends and three weeks off for vacation throughout the summer, can you say perfect? 

My sister Allie is arriving at the end of July and we are flying back together on September 2nd, with a day long sightseeing layover in Madrid!

What is the next big step you ask? Well that is a great question. I have made the decision not to go back to school this upcoming year. I was unable to decide what I wanted to do and realized that I wasn't quite sure why I was so rushed to go back to school if I wasn't even sure what I wanted to study. After changing my mind every weekend that I returned from the army, my sister suggested looking into an MBA. She may actually be on to something here... Anyway, I will probably take or at least study for the GMAT this summer and apply for school for the fall of 2014 in whatever I end up deciding(in Israel of course, it's free and have you heard me complain about my undergrad loans?!?) In the mean time, the next year and a bit looks blissfully open and full of opportunity. It will be filled with a combination of traveling and work, that is for sure, but the ratio has yet to be determined. 

More pictures to come once I upload to my computer. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Course Nativ

In typical army style..I found out two weeks ago that I was accepted to 'Course Nativ' and I started last week.  A little background about the course and why I am in it...

In order to be a candidate for the course one must be either A: a new immigrant less than 10 years in Israel and/or B: not considered Jewish by Jewish Law. I fall under both of those categories. But wait a minute, some of you may ask, what does it mean you're not considered Jewish, Lauren? You're the only Jew out of all of my friends! (It's kind of funny how true that is for many people back home). In the Jewish religion one is born the religion of their mother (in my case, Catholic), in the Catholic religion one is not Catholic until baptized. Before my sisters and I were born my parents decided to raise us Jewish which meant at six months we all underwent a conservative Jewish conversion. Is the US this means that I am considered a Jew, in Israel, however, a conservative conversion does not count and therefore I need to undergo another conversion, this time Orthodox. The only way in which my current "half-Jewish" status affects me in Israel is that I cannot get married here until I undergo the conversion. Everything else pertaining to the law I am entitled to since, just to be a bit more confusing, according the the government I am Jewish yet according the the Chief Rabbi I am not. The only governmental issue run by the Rabbi is marriage, there is no civil marriage in Israel. Because of this many Israeli's that do not want an orthodox Jewish wedding get married abroad and then their marriage is verified in Israel. Although I have no idea if I will even get married in Israel or not, the reason I am going through this process now is because it is a much faster process to do in the army than in civilian life...if I decided to do so after. Back to the course...

The course is 7 weeks and it is in Jerusalem at a place run by the Jewish Agency, which means not at an army base. This has pros and cons..but mostly pros. I have a room with 3 roommates a bathroom, shower, and a real down comforter provided to me :). Our dining hall has way better food than the army, except dinner is usually a meat meal which guys love and I dislike greatly. (Usually in the army breakfast and dinner are dairy and lunch is meat, for kosher reasons it is not possible to have both at one meal. Since I'm not a big meat eater I graciously look forward to breakfast and dinner and manage to get by at lunch. A meat dinner is thought of as really awesome to almost everyone, except me and the real vegetarians.) Back on track...We are split up into 9 groups and we learn from 8am until 7pm, with breaks of course, Sunday-Thursday. We have many trips to religious and historical sites around the country. Our classes are Zionism, history, Torah, holidays, and Jewish philosophy.

A majority of the students are Russian, either Israeli born or immigrants, who are usually also not considered Jewish. In Russia Judaism is paternal as opposed to maternal, go figure, which causes problems in Israel. Many students mother's are Jewish is Russia which means their mother's father is Jewish. It's all a bit confusing and arbitrary...don't worry about not following. Anyway, I am the only American girl in the course of 200 people which I'm pretty surprised about. I am in a class with half Russian students (Israeli born and not), 2 from Peru, one Columbian, one Argentinean, one from Panama, one Romanian, two ethiopian, a few from Ukraine, one from Belarus, one from LA, and I think that's it. There are 7 girls including myself, 6 Russian and me, haha. I am among 3 who have been here for 3 years or less, everyone else is 8-10 years or more in Israel. As you can imagine, it is quite the eclectic class. I am glad I am not in the class with almost all American guys because I know I would end up speaking English too often.

So far everything is really interesting, I am excited to learn a lot more these next two weeks (we are staying the weekend) as last week was mostly an introductory week.

Look what happened in Jerusalem this week!!!
overlooking snowy Jerusalem
the old city, the Dome of the Rock
 Palm tree covered in snow

My class and our snowman!